Molecular characterisation of five Sarcocystis species in domestic sheep (Ovis aries) from Spain

  • Bjørn GjerdeEmail author
  • Concepción de la Fuente
  • José María Alunda
  • Mónica Luzón
Protozoology - Original Paper


The major aim of the present study was to determine by molecular methods whether the wide and narrow types of macroscopic sarcocysts in Spanish sheep belonged to different species, that is, Sarcocystis gigantea and Sarcocystis medusiformis, respectively. Additionally, we wanted to identify and characterize molecularly the species forming microscopic sarcocysts and determine the phylogenetic placement of all species found. Portions of the oesophagus, diaphragm and hind legs containing macroscopic sarcocysts were collected from slaughtered culled ewes at an abattoir in the Province of Madrid, Central Spain, but both macroscopic and microscopic sarcocysts were isolated for molecular examination. Genomic DNA from 63 sarcocysts (21 macroscopic, 42 microscopic) were examined at the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene (cox1), while selected isolates of each species found were further examined at the 18S and 28S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes. The 63 sarcocysts comprised five cox1 sequence types, each corresponding to a particular sarcocyst type, and thus represented five Sarcocystis spp. The slender fusiform and thick macrocysts belonged to S. medusiformis and S. gigantea, respectively. The microscopic sarcocysts belonged to Sarcocystis arieticanis, Sarcocystis tenella and a Sarcocystis mihoensis-like species with slanting thorn-like cyst wall protrusions, which was characterised molecularly for the first time. Based on its phylogenetic position, the S. mihoensis-like species probably uses corvids as definitive hosts.


Sarcocystis arieticanis Sarcocystis tenella Sarcocystis gigantea Sarcocystis medusiformis Sarcocystis mihoensis Spain 18S rRNA gene 28S rRNA gene Cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene Phylogeny 



We are indebted to the veterinary services and staff of the abattoir in Villarejo de Salvanés (Madrid). Their kind collaboration made possible the sampling of sheep carcasses.

Compliance with ethical standards

The muscle samples used in the present study were collected from the carcasses of sheep slaughtered according to EU regulations at an abattoir in Villarejo de Salvanés, Province of Madrid.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

436_2019_6504_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (691 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 691 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineNorwegian University of Life SciencesOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Animal Health, Veterinary FacultyComplutense University of MadridMadridSpain

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